Video Slots Explained
Originally, the gameplay of a slot machine was subject to the limitations of physical reels — simply put, developers could only fit so much into a machine. The advent of video slot machines unlocked endless possibilities for slot manufacturers by taking the game into virtual dimensions. Players could suddenly enjoy fun new features like increased paylines and complex bonus games.
When playing online slots, you might still see a distinction between video and classic slots. Obviously all online slots are virtual, but these terms provide a simple way for players to find a slot site to match the specific experience they’re looking for.
Classic-style online slots emulate traditional machines of the past, so might use a three-reel, three-payline format with theming to match — think of a fruit machine in the corner of a bar.
On the other hand, video slot machines often have a vast number of paylines — sometimes in the hundreds if thousands — across more reels, and many feature unique graphics and bonus rounds. You’re more likely to see exciting mechanics like expanding wild symbols and scatters too.
The fundamentals of video slots are the same as any classic slot: players spin the reels and win cash prizes when matching combinations appear on an active payline. But more varied gameplay makes video slots more exciting for many online gamblers.
The best online casinos will have a large variety of slots to choose from across different themes and with unique mechanics. We’re talking thousands of individual games in some operators’ catalogues, so there’s something for everyone.
Progressive Jackpot Video Slots
One exhilarating feature that can be found on video slots is a progressive jackpot. Rather than a fixed amount, the value of the jackpot in these games increases each time the reels are spun but the jackpot is not won. This can lead to lucky players winning enormous jackpots that have been contributed to from bets made by players from all around the world. This helps the jackpot’s value ramp up faster, but it also means someone else could win it; once the jackpot is won, it resets to the starting amount and begins to climb again.
If you’re playing a slot with a progressive jackpot, make sure you check for betting requirements. You’ll often find that only bets that activate the maximum number of paylines will be eligible to be in with a chance of winning the top prize. Because each spin contributes to the jackpot but isn’t necessarily eligible to win it, this can affect the actual return to player (RTP) percentage during your session — we’ll discuss this in more detail below.
Progressive jackpots can regularly run into the millions. Some of the biggest progressive jackpots wins include:
- Mega Moolah by Microgaming — a jackpot of over €19 million won in 2021.
- WowPot by Microgaming — over £15 million won in 2021.
- Mega Fortune by NetEnt — over €17 million won in 2013.
RTP and Variance
When choosing a video slot to play, it’s important to understand the RTP and variance of a particular game. These numbers give an idea of how the game pays out, so players can find a slot best-suited to their playing style.
Always remember that regardless of the RTP and variance ratings of a slot, there’s never a guarantee of winning, and players should always be mindful of responsible gambling practices.
RTP is a measurement of how much a slot pays out over time, given as a percentage. For example, a slot with 95% RTP will theoretically pay out $95 for every $100 put into it. Put another way, you can think of the remaining $5 or 5% as the house edge.
Be aware that RTP figures are calculated over millions of spins so don’t have much bearing on a real-life playing session, but they do help players single out the games that pay out more money on average.
95% is a good starting point with RTP, but the higher the better — for example, Playtech’s Ugga Bugga has one of the highest RTPs around, clocking in at 99.07%. Watch out for RTP rates on games with progressive jackpots ‒ these can often vary depending on the number of paylines being activated and the size of the players’ bets.
To build a clearer picture of how slots payout, you should also consider the variance. Also known as volatility, variance refers to how frequently slots payout, and the size of the prize when they do. A high-variance slot will pay out larger amounts but less often, and a low-variance slot will do the opposite.
It’s important to choose a slot with the right variance for your budget and session length. Players with a smaller bankroll might prefer a low-variance game so they’re more likely to score a win before running out of money. That said, players can still experience significant losing streaks even on low-variance slots — it’s a game of chance after all.